A-level Economics

Economics is the study of how individuals or groups of individuals make decisions about the allocation of scarce resources.

There is a broad range of skills involved in the study of Economics at A-level. Pupils who enjoy analytical Humanities such as History and English Literature will enjoy the subject, as will those who enjoy understanding the rules and exploring the limitations of theoretical Scientific models. Economics involves developing an understanding of the wider world, and will raise awareness of current affairs whilst simultaneously equipping the student with an ability to assess the likely causes and consequences of current events.

You do not need to be studying A-level Maths in order to take Economics, although many Economics courses at university will require Maths. Whilst mathematical ability is helpful for A-level Economics, the ability to understand and describe relationships between factors (cause-and-effect) is the most important skill set.

Course content L6

Theme 1: Introduction to markets and market failure

This theme focuses on microeconomic concepts. This will include developing an understanding of how free markets function, why they sometimes fail, and how and to what extent the government should intervene within free markets.

Theme 2: The UK economy: performance and policies

This theme focuses on macroeconomic concepts. This will include developing an understanding of what determines the performance of the UK economy, how this can be measured and what policies the government can use to intervene within the economy. There is a particular emphasis in this section of the course on the awareness and use of real-world examples.

Course content U6

Theme 3: Business behaviour and the labour market

This theme develops the microeconomic concepts introduced in Theme 1 and focuses on business economics. This will include developing an understanding of how firms operate in order to maximise profits, how the level of competition affects how a market functions and how the government can intervene to ensure the efficiency of markets. The labour market is also studied within this theme looking at issues such as how wages are determined and the impact of a minimum wage.

Theme 4: A global perspective

This theme develops the macroeconomic concepts introduced in Theme 2 and applies these concepts in a global context. This will include developing an understanding of issues such as globalisation, trade, exchange rates, poverty, inequality and the constraints and opportunities facing developing economies. The financial sector, with particular reference to the global financial crisis, is also studied within this theme.

Examination arrangements

The course is assessed in three written exams, all to be sat in the Trinity term of U6. There is no coursework.

  • Markets and Business Behaviour (Themes 1 and 3): 2 hours; 35% of total A-Level
  • The National and Global Economy (Themes 2 and 4): 2 hours; 35% of total A-Level
  • Microeconomics and Macroeconomics (synoptic paper, Themes 1-4): 2 hours; 30% of A-Level
Suggested preparation 
Publications The Economist …or any similarly respected publication
The Financial Times
Levitt, Stephen D & Dubner, Stephen J Freakonomics
Krugman, Paul The Return of Depression Economics
Chang, Ha-Joon Economics: The User’s Guide
23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism
Tim Harford The Undercover Economist
Further inspiration 
Wren-Lewis, Simon Mainly Macro  Blog
Harford, Tim More or Less Podcast
Collier, Paul The Plundered Planet
Stiglitz, Joseph The Price of Inequality
Thaler, Richard H & Sunstein, Cass R Nudge
Sorkin, Andrew Ross Too Big To Fail
Rachman, Gideon Zero-Sum World
Thornton, Phil The Great Economists
Cassidy, John How Markets Fail
Gladwell, Malcolm Outliers
Diamond, Jared Guns, Germs & Steel
Piketty, Thomas Capital in the Twenty-First Century Pocket edition also available